ECJ asked to rule on Britons’ EU citizenship

A court in Amsterdam has decided to ask the European Court of Justice for a ruling on whether or not British people will definitely lose their EU citizenship if the UK leaves the EU.

A ruling that they will not lose it could have a dramatic impact on the Brexit negotiations: it could mean Britons in countries like France would keep all the benefits of EU freedom of movement as now, unconditionally, whether or not the UK remains in the EU and whatever deal is agreed.

Such a ruling might possibly also benefit Britons in the UK wanting to come to countries like France after Brexit, although the case before the Amsterdam court has not focused on this group.

In a case brought against the Dutch government last month, Britons from the Brexpats: Hear Our Voice campaign group told the Amsterdam district court that the government (and therefore the rest of the ‘EU27’, including France) was wrong to take the view that Britons will cease to be EU citizens after the UK leaves.

As we reported in this month’s edition of The Connexion newspaper, their lawyer, Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, told us:  “We say there are very good arguments that these [EU citizenship] rights are inalienable and should remain in force”.

The plaintiffs were hoping that the court would take the decision to refer the point to the ECJ, the only body able to rule definitively.

Today the court agreed to do so, Mr Alberdingk Thijm said.

He added: “Theresa May famously said ‘Brexit means Brexit’, but the Brits currently living on the continent have no idea what that means for them. Are you an EU citizen for life or can your citizenship be taken away from you? That is the fundamental question that will be put forward to the European Court.”

BHOV said in a statement that they are “grateful to the court and delighted with the decision”, which they said would help bring clarification, “not only for the 46,000 Brits living in the Netherlands, but also for all the 1.2 million Brits living in other EU countries”.

One of the group’s organisers told Connexion the ruling was “brilliant news” and “things are really looking up”.

The precise questions that the Dutch court intends to ask the ECJ are:

  • Does the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU automatically lead to the loss of the EU citizenship of British nationals and thus to the elimination of the rights and freedoms deriving from EU citizenship?
  • If the answer to the first question is 'no', should conditions or restrictions be imposed on the maintenance of the rights and freedoms to be derived from EU citizenship?

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